A Dream Deferred, but Not Lost – Celebrating Black Maternal Health Week!
Every story begins with “for as long as I can remember…” and my story is no different. For as long as I can remember, I often dreamed about what would happen when I went into labor. I dreamed more about this than I did about who I would marry and what my wedding would look like. For me, being a mother, being pregnant, and my labor were at the forefront of my dreams. I imagined something cute where I would wake in the middle of the night, shove my husband to wake him, and then watch as he rushed to get things in the car because my water broke, and it was “go time.” Or I’d get a little too excited at a family event, and then my water would break. We’d rush to the hospital, and I’d labor while almost breaking my partner’s hand, yelling expletives just to be at peace the moment my baby came out and I saw their little face. I would marvel at the strength it took for me to push my baby out of me as my mom, my mother’s mother, and my ancestors did before me.
However, that’s not how my story unfolded; instead of having my dream labor, I had to get a C-section. It wasn’t in the cards, and there was a grief that I had to get through, not once, twice, or three times, but FOUR times! I mourned the loss of my ability to have the labor I dreamed of. I went through the guilt of feeling like I “took the easy way out.” I experienced anger because at 21, a week prior to my due date, I went to my weekly OBGYN visit and was told I was five centimeters and the baby probably wouldn’t stay in through the weekend. Well, the weekend came and went, and when I went to my next visit prior to my due date, I was six centimeters, and I had felt zero contractions or Braxton hicks. My doctor recommended that I be induced on my due date because I was already six centimeters, and she would “slide right on out.” He said nothing about there being risks. I was young and excited about meeting my baby, so I agreed. On January 31, 2008, I went to the hospital at 6 AM, I was still six centimeters, and the nurses hooked me and gave me my first hit of Pitocin. I would get two additional doses of Pitocin in my IV before I finally felt my first contraction which came at me like a Mack truck. It was extremely intense, and there was not a gradual progression in the intensity of the contractions. I was six hours into labor and eight centimeters when they broke my water. Another seven and a half hours later, I was feverish, did not progress past eight centimeters, and was told I was “open too long” because they had broken my water and my baby’s heart rate was dropping. “We need to do an Emergency C-section,” were the words that came out of my doctor’s mouth after I labored for 13 ½ hours. I was afraid for my baby’s life, so once again, I agreed, no questions asked. I didn’t think or know about the ramifications or risks of the procedure. Here I was, a 21-year-old, first-time mom who was rushed to give birth to my first child even though there was no need as I wasn’t overdue. There were no issues or complications, it was my first baby, and first babies tend to take their time, but here I was, being induced and now having a major surgery as a result of not being fully informed. I was also angry because, after my first daughter, I wasn’t told about VBAC and was told I had to get a second C-section. By the time I had my third and fourth and knew about the possibility of getting a VBAC, the trauma that my body endured from my 2nd C-section made VBAC impossible.
I didn’t know what a C-section entailed, and I skipped watching C-sections being performed when watching TLC birth stories because “I’m not getting that!” I had the book, as everyone did at the time, “What to Expect When Expecting,” and quite literally ignored the C-section portion because no woman in my family needed one. I believed they were for emergencies and celebrities who wanted to keep their goods intact. Everything I ever saw about C-sections was so negative at the time when I had my two older children in 2008 and 2010. There were no moms talking about how badass I was because getting cut open like a seven-layer dip is not a small feat. Also, sometimes your body can’t labor, and this was a fact that was not normalized. With my third and especially my fourth C-section, I forgave myself. I ended my guilt. I put out the fire of my anger, and I looked at what I call my “mommy tattoo” (C-section scar). I feel strong that I got through FOUR C-sections and brought four beautiful babies earth side. I feel blessed that I am a part of a group of mommas who were AWAKE during their C-section for over an hour while clinicians cut through seven layers of skin, tissue, and muscle and pulled a six-to-ten-pound baby out. I was closed up, sent to recovery, held and fed my beautiful baby from my chest, and then got up and walked around a few short hours later. Even though a C-section is a surgery like other major surgeries in which recovery is needed, it is not treated that way. Here we get up, moving, and taking care of another life or lives — if you are like me and have children waiting for you at home.
My “mommy tattoo” is beautiful. It is a badge of honor and a reminder for me to build awareness. It’s a visual reminder of what my body can and did do. And guess what? My delivery was still a fairytale. My delivery was hard, but it made me a mommy, just like a mom who gave birth vaginally. No matter how a baby comes into this world, be it vaginal or a C-section, that mom is strong and that mom is not lazy. That mom did what was best for her and her baby, and every mom should be celebrated no matter what. C-section awareness month is a celebration of how much our bodies can persevere. It is a time to show others that a “mommy tattoo” is not something to be ashamed of but something to be revered. So go ahead, mommas and wear that two-piece, show it off with that crop top, and marvel in the goddess that you are!
Blog Writer: Precious Andrews